Riders Not Buying 'Mother Nature' Excuse, Demand Full AccountabilityBy Jennifer McLogan

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Sick of being stranded, Long Island Rail Road commuters are demanding a back-up plan and full accountability following the system-wide shut down caused by last week’s lightning strike.

Is the LIRR cursed? On Monday night its president blamed “weather woes” on the consistent crippling of the largest commuter railroad in the country. Passengers stranded by the latest shutdown last Thursday refused to accept that explanation.

“We had no communication with the outside world,” one commuter said.

“We want to ride a reliable train,” another added.

“It’s very disturbing. A lot of us rely on the train,” said another.

“I saw maybe a thousand people out there. It was crazy hysterical that day,” one said.

“How can you not have a back up system in place?” wonder another rider.

In response, CBS 2 received the railroad’s cryptic apology mostly blaming Mother Nature for “extraordinary weather events in the past year.” As many as 300,000 daily riders have suffered through 12 major delays or shutdowns in the past 12 months due to thunderstorms, lightning, wind, snow, ice and human error.

“We are asking for a detailed investigation as to what happened,” LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said.

Epstein wonders why millions of dollars were recently paid to a manufacturer to upgrade the LIRR’s signal and switch system.

“It failed the other night. The primary and the backup failed,” Epstein said of the $45 million system.

McLogan tried asking the president and her staff what the railroad needs to work properly and efficiently, but her requests for on-camera interviews were rebuffed.

Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach, a member of the State Transportation Committee, said commuters want the railroad held accountable.

“We are talking about modern times. We have the ability. We thought we addressed the problem, that it was not going to happen again, and two weeks later it happened again. Somebody didn’t do their homework,” Weisenberg said.

Commuters have been left asking can their railroad better plan for disasters, react more quickly, and communicate in a crisis.

The LIRR issued a statement saying consumer safety comes first. It pledged an internal investigation to determine what went wrong last week and has hired an outside consultant.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jennifer McLogan